Avoidable Injuries Continue in Winter Sports
March 6, 2000 (Atlanta) -- High-speed snowmobile and ice hockey collisions
often result in injury to the head, neck, and spine, according to two reports
in the March issue of Pediatrics. Doctors call for education,
legislation, and sportsmanship to help reduce injuries and deaths among
Snowmobiling is a very popular winter sport in the U.S. and around the
world. Many consider it a family sport, so there is much concern that both
parents and children be educated about injury prevention in snowmobiling.
In 1988, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published the following
statement on snowmobiling: "Snowmobiles are inappropriate for use by
children and young adolescents and should not be used by children younger than
16 years old." The AAP also recommended that riders over age 16 be licensed
and that helmets be worn at all times.
Despite those recommendations more than a decade ago, snowmobile injuries
continue. Because pediatric snowmobile trauma has not been studied in the
United States, researchers reviewed almost 300 cases reported to the Consumer
Product Safety Commission between 1990 and 1998. Snowmobile laws were reviewed
in states that reported one or more deaths.
The data showed that 75% of all snowmobile incidents involved boys. Head and
neck injuries, from collisions with stationary objects, were the most common
cause of death. Non-fatal injuries, from vehicle ejection, included bruises,
scrapes, cuts, broken bones, and sprains.
Legislative analysis revealed that age restrictions typically don't apply to
snowmobile use on private property, where over 40% of all pediatric accidents
occurred. Additionally, most states don't require protective helmets. The
authors feel that new laws are necessary and appropriate.
"Legislators should consider enacting helmet laws, age restrictions, and
speed limits like those for other motor vehicles," says lead author Manda
Rice, research coordinator at Toledo Children's Hospital in Ohio. "Also,
the maintenance of snowmobile trails should be funded with licensing and
"But so far, the states haven't adopted [such restrictions]. And that's
why we're encouraging doctors to advocate at the state and local levels,"
Rice tells WebMD.
"It's frustrating to see teen-agers with serious, long-term injuries
from recreational snowmobile use," says Michael Bannon, MD, director of the
Mayo Clinic's surgical/trauma intensive care unit and assistant professor of
surgery at the Mayo School of Medicine in Rochester, Minn. "And snowmobile
collisions can be just as devastating as high-speed automobile
Bannon tells WebMD that the long-term consequences of head injury range from
learning and memory impairments to prolonged coma. "These [head injuries]
are the kinds of injuries that can change the entire course of family
life," says Bannon. "And the same is true with injuries to the
Snowmobiling isn't the only dangerous winter sport. An increase in spine
injuries led the AAP to make similar recommendations for youth ice hockey. Size
and strength vary between players in all competition levels, but the
differences are most pronounced at 14-15.
For this reason, the academy recommends prohibiting intentional body contact
-- called body checks -- in players under age 15, adopting good sportsmanship
programs, and implementing education about the danger of checking from
- High-speed snowmobile and ice hockey collisions involving children often
result in injuries to the head, neck, and spine, according to recent
- The American Academy of Pediatrics believes that there should be helmet
laws, speed limits, and age restrictions for snowmobiles, but most states have
no such legislation.
- For youth ice hockey, the AAP recommends the prohibition of body checks in
players under age 15, the adoption of good sportsmanship programs, and
education on the dangers of checking from behind.